Online Colleges for Military Service Members and Veterans

Should you go to college or the military? Luckily, you can do both! Read this guide to learn about going to college in the military.

Updated April 12, 2023 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Getting Your Degree While in College

Did you know that one of the most popular reasons people join the military is to earn their degree? You can earn a degree and prepare for a civilian career while on active duty. Online courses make it easy to earn a degree from anywhere in the world.

You can access excellent university education, paid for all or in part by the military through Tuition Assistance. Joining the military can also be a way to get high-level training for professional careers like pilots, doctors, and nurses. You may even be paid to learn! The GI Bill makes it easier for students to get a degree even after leaving the military. In fact, 75% of veteran students in 2018 were enrolled as full-time students.

FAQ: Joining the Military While Attending College

Can you attend college while in the military?

Online colleges for military personnel offer resources designed to support service members. Many schools accommodate degree-seekers deployed overseas and those who must pause their education for a reason related to their service.

Should I finish college before joining the military?

New enlistees with a college degree may qualify for officer training programs. However, service members cannot use GI Bill benefits for past education expenses.

Is college free if you are in the military?

GI Bill assistance may only cover some tuition and fees, especially for students at private institutions. Students should speak with a financial aid advisor at their prospective school before enrolling.

Do all colleges accept the GI Bill?

The Department of Veterans Affairs maintains a list of colleges and universities that accept the GI Bill. Some colleges for military personnel offer additional financial aid through the Yellow Ribbon Program.

How many classes can you take while on active duty?

The number of classes you can take while on active duty will depend on your personal life and military obligations, but many students can take up to three classes per semester. You may have to pause classes while on Army Temporary Duty, deployments, or significant inspections.

Will the military pay for college after you graduate?

The GI Bill makes military service members eligible for in-state tuition and fees. You could be eligible if you joined the military after September 10, 2001, and have had at least 90 days of service. You must also meet the VA's other basic requirements.

Can you study while in the military?

Yes! You can study while in the military. Active duty military members can attend classes online, on base, or at a branch campus while deployed. Whether the courses you need are available on base will depend on your degree and deployment.

Military or College: Making the Best Decision for You

Benefits of Joining the Military

  • You can get up to 100% of tuition covered through tuition assistance, usually up to $250 per credit. You may also be eligible for a sign-on bonus of $50,000 or more.
  • You gain technical and tactical proficiency in various skills, including on-the-ground training. Many colleges on this list give credit for skills gained.
  • You'll learn to be responsible and disciplined while building interpersonal skills and technical problem-solving.

Benefits of Going to College

  • You'll be able to focus on the courses for your degree program full-time.
  • You may be able to complete a degree faster if you're not working in the military simultaneously.
  • You'll have more flexibility to balance family obligations or other personal commitments with college coursework.

Take These Steps to Decide: Military or College?

When deciding between enlisting in the military or attending college, you'll want to weigh the pros and cons of college and military life. The decision will look different for each person, but it usually involves finances, career plans, and family.

  1. 1


    The military covers 100% of tuition up to $4,500, depending on the branch. Unless you received a full-ride academic or athletic scholarship, the military is usually the best option to graduate from college debt-free.

  2. 2

    Career plans

    For professionals who want a life of service in the military, going directly into service while earning a college degree is a natural step. The military offers exceptional training if you're planning to pursue a civilian career in medicine or as a pilot.

    The military also often gives tuition assistance or reimbursement for graduate degrees. In some cases, you'll also receive a stipend. If you want to earn an advanced degree, the military can be an affordable path to prepare for a civilian career.

  3. 3


    With military service comes the possibility of deployment or extended times away from home for training. You'll need to discuss the situation with your family to decide whether the commitment the military requires will work for your lifestyle. For many families, serving in the military becomes a family legacy. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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How to Navigate College

Many active-duty service members and veterans face challenges in earning a degree. For example, some experience an education gap between high school and college. These learners may need assistance honing research, math, and writing skills, which are essential to college success. Fortunately, military-friendly schools often provide academic resources such as tutors and advisors with military backgrounds. Online learners can often access these services as well.

Prospective students can explore resources designed to help them excel in school. The Warrior-Scholar Project offers 1- to 2-week academic boot camps emphasizing STEM fields, business, and the humanities. Professors from top universities such as Princeton and Yale lead in-person and virtual sessions simulating the college experience. Shorter programs train women business leaders and help future degree-seekers hone their study skills.

For veterans, earning a degree may involve overcoming psychological trauma. Organizations such as Real Warriors encourage veterans in need to start therapy. Real Warriors' services include an emergency hotline and directions to the closest military treatment facility. The organization also offers articles detailing mental health issues that veterans commonly experience, such as anger, grief, and sleep deprivation.

Colleges often provide on-campus resources for service members and veterans. College counselors assist students with PTSD, marital problems, and interpersonal conflicts. Some of the best online colleges for military service members offer counseling and therapy at no additional charge. Learners can contact their prospective school's student services department for more information.

Even if learners do not need psychological counseling or related services, they may feel out of place or isolated on a college campus due to their unique life experiences. Degree-seekers can join Student Veterans of America (SVA) as they begin transitioning back to civilian life. SVA maintains chapters on more than 1,500 campuses throughout the United States and awards exclusive scholarships.

College Within the Different Military Branches


In the Army's tuition assistance program, you can get up to $250 per semester hour, for up to 16 semester hours per year. The tuition assistance program can give you up to $4,000 annually to pay for college or professional training.

The Army's Green to Gold program helps active duty soldiers cover the cost of finishing a four-year bachelor's degree or two-year associate degree. Soldiers can also be eligible for up to 100% of tuition covers for graduate degrees.

The Army Medical Department offers a $20,000 sign-on bonus, a $2,400-plus monthly allowance, and tuition. Professionals who meet the requirement to join the Judge Advocate General's Corps can get up to $65,000 in tuition reimbursement.

Air Force

The Air Force offers up to $250 per semester hour or $166 per quarter hour, paying 100% of tuition up to $4,500 annually. You can take off-duty courses with any accredited school that has signed the Department of Defense Memorandum of Understanding in pursuit of approved degree programs.

You'll need to meet the education requirements, including a minimum GPA of 2.0 for undergraduate students or a 3.0 GPA for graduate students.

The Air Force also offers opportunities for graduate medical education. And, of course, enlisting in the Air Force is a common path to gaining the expertise to become a professional civilian pilot.


Education benefits for active duty Marines include 100% of tuition at accredited institutions, covering up to $225 per college credit or $4,500 per year. Marines need to maintain an average grade of a "C."

As a Marine, you'll be eligible for the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES). Through DANTES, you can earn college credit through correspondence, examination, or independent study.

Marines who want to pursue a master's degree can get partial funding. You can also receive regular pay and allowances while attending graduate school full-time.

National Guard

Similar to other branches of the military, the Army National Guard offers 100% tuition for up to $250 per semester hour, up to $4,000 per year. You'll also have a lifetime limit of 139 undergraduate semester hours and 39 graduate semester hours.

To be eligible, your university or college must be accredited and participate in GoArmyEd. You'll only get tuition assistance for courses that meet the requirements in your documented degree plan. There's also a minimum GPA of 2.0 for undergraduate courses and 3.0 for graduate courses to quality.

The Air National Guard also offers 100% tuition assistance — up to $4,000 per year or $250 per semester hour.

Enrollment Options for Active-Duty and Reserve Members

Not all colleges for military service members require learners to attend courses on campus. Many schools offer online and hybrid programs, generous transfer credit policies, and credit for military experience. These programs may save learners money on tuition and reduce the time needed to graduate.

Military personnel can continue their education while deployed and living on base. Satellite campuses and DANTES deliver self-paced courses and career-preparation assistance.

Satellite Campuses

Many of the best online colleges for military students maintain one or more satellite campuses. These campuses allow students to receive an on-campus experience without relocating. Students at satellite campuses may also receive lower tuition rates and more student-teacher interaction than learners on main campuses.

However, attending a satellite campus may come with drawbacks. The small campus size may limit the number of academic facilities, extracurricular activities, and available courses. Students should visit their prospective campus to determine whether it meets their educational needs.

Online Programs

Independent and distance learning can help active-duty service members earn a degree from their current location. DANTES's Kuder Journey software connects students with highly trained advisors and coaches. Kuder Journey's other benefits include a digital portfolio for work samples, career transition resources, and one-on-one job-hunting assistance.

Although online colleges for military personnel feature multiple advantages, some learners may struggle with managing time and using online learning software. Fortunately, Kuder Journey and many online schools provide IT and academic support services. Some schools also require distance students to complete an online learning orientation.

Paying for College as Active Military

Active-duty service members can pursue many options to help finance a college degree. Tuition assistance programs, the GI Bill, and private scholarship opportunities can make college an affordable investment. Eligibility criteria vary, but the list below features some financial aid programs for service members. Learners should consult their prospective school's financial aid office for more information.

Tuition Assistance

Each of the military's five branches provides tuition assistance to service members in good standing. As of 2021, the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy award a maximum of $4,500 annually. Coast Guard members receive up to $3,750.

Service members who qualify for either the Montgomery GI Bill® or the Post-9/11 GI Bill® can also apply for Tuition Assistance Top-Up (TATU). This federal program helps learners close the gap between a course's cost and a branch's tuition assistance payments. TATU expires after 36 months and may reduce recipients' future GI Bill benefits.

GI Bill

Congress passed the GI Bill in 1944 to help returning Second World War veterans earn a college degree and buy a home. The bill underwent many changes in the following decades. Under the current law, service members qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill by completing at least 90 days of active service. Other benefits include a housing stipend.The Montgomery GI Bill provides active-duty service members greater financial assistance than the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Service members are eligible for Montgomery GI Bill benefits after two years of service, and the government makes payments directly to the student. However, benefits expire after 10 years, while Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits do not.

Scholarships and Financial Aid

In addition to federal tuition assistance and GI Bill benefits, active-duty service members can pursue funding from organizations such as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Many organizations sponsor scholarships for enlisted personnel and veterans.Degree-seekers planning to enlist after graduation may qualify for Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) scholarships. These awards pay up to full tuition for qualifying ROTC members.

Learners attending one of the best online colleges for military degree-seekers can also apply for private scholarships and grants. Many organizations offer merit-based and need-based aid for military students. Application deadlines and requirements vary by award.

Expert Interview: Lizz Galea, U.S. Air Force A1C

Lizz Galea

U.S. Air Force A1C (Airman First Class) Lizz Galea, 23, is from Kalkaska, Michigan, and is currently stationed at RAF Mildenhall in the United Kingdom, about 75 miles from London. She decided to join the Air Force in April 2019 and officially enlisted in the DEP (Delayed Entry Program) in May 2019. She is taking online classes in pursuit of an arts and sciences degree from Northwestern Michigan College, located about 25 miles from her hometown. She has a particular interest in dietetics and hopes to eventually work as a registered dietitian for athletes.

What do you enjoy most about pursuing your degree?

I love being knowledgeable about the things I am most passionate about. Health has always played a huge role in my life, and I'm constantly learning new ways to incorporate better healthy habits into my everyday routine.

What is the most challenging part about attending college while serving in the military?

The most challenging parts would have to be the unstructured nature of college and really prioritizing time for school. The military is extremely structured, as many people already know. As a service member, I know what my duties and responsibilities are. If I am given orders to accomplish a task, there is a deadline, and if it's not completed in time, it may impact the mission.

On the other hand, in college, the success is all up to the student. The professors will provide the material and help if asked, but if I decide not to do the work, it's only my future that I am affecting. This leads to prioritizing time. For example, I work 0730-1630 Monday through Friday. Under special circumstances, I may have to work earlier, later, or even on the weekends. However, this does not include time for daily errands, the gym, or any extra volunteer work that the Air Force may require.

To avoid overwhelming myself, I have to create a schedule. My work schedule, any special duties, gym time, and designated time for studying all go in my planner.

What are some tips for student success while trying to balance serving with getting an education?

Make a schedule for yourself. If you don't have a planner or a calendar, get one. They are so inexpensive, and they will help you keep your head on straight. Second to that, another important tip would be to have a clear understanding of why you're doing what you're doing. I find it helpful to write down what motivates me and what pushes me to do better. Make a list of short-term and long-term goals, and try to chip away at them every day.

What is your recommendation for funding a degree while actively serving?

Fortunately, every active-duty service member is entitled to tuition assistance. Depending on how expensive the college or university is, it is possible that the military will pay for up to two classes per semester. Going to school is not only a benefit in the military, but is also looked at as a privilege. Service members need to meet specific requirements to take classes. To name a few examples, we have to complete our upgrade training, know that the mission comes first, and maintain a certain GPA. I couldn't agree more with the requirements. The military really gives everyone a fair and equal way to further their education.

How is funding different for active military versus reserve members?

There is no difference. There are some specific scholarships for each, but no difference in costs.

Top Schools for Active Military and Veterans

The top schools for active military personnel and veterans offer flexible coursework and online options so you can learn from anywhere in the world. In some cases, you can get a significant percentage of credits needed to graduate from military experience.

The list below is in alphabetical order. Any college on the list could be a great choice for you!

Arizona State University

Service members can attend classes at ASU's campuses or online. There are 7,180 military and veteran students currently enrolled at ASU, including 1,230 spouses and dependents.

The Pat Tillman Veterans Center aims to support military-connected students from admissions through student life. It also offers scholarships to active military, veterans, and dependent students.

Total annual undergraduate tuition and fees at ASU are $12,410 for Arizona residents. Online bachelor's degree courses cost $560–$660 per credit hour.

Drexel University

Drexel University gains its status as a "Military-Friendly School" by promoting military education. Active military personnel, veterans, National Guard, or Reserve, and their spouses, children, and parents can receive a tuition reduction of 10%-40%.

Online courses allow service members to earn a degree from anywhere in the world. Programs start four times per year. In addition, there is no limit on the number of veterans who may enroll in Drexel for tuition-free education through the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Standard undergraduate tuition costs an average of $18,870 per term or $1,270 per credit hour for part-time students.

Florida State University

FSU accepts tuition assistance from every branch of the military. If you're out of state, FSU also allows eligible veterans and their dependents to receive out-of-state tuition waivers. Distance learning is also covered.

FSU also offers veteran liaisons, veteran success courses, and academic support for active military personnel, veterans, and family members. Students can join military student organizations, including the Women's Veterans Alliance and STEM Veterans USA at FSU. In-state undergraduate tuition costs an average of $5,620, or $220 per credit hour.

Liberty University

LU's military benefits include college credit for military training, given military benefits, an on-campus Veteran's Center, and scholarships for military students. Military benefits apply to current members of the armed forces, veterans, and spouses of both active service members and veterans.

LU has a team of professionals ready to help you access tuition assistance or veteran's benefits, regardless of the branch where you've served.

Tuition costs $250 per credit hour for undergraduates, $280 for graduate students, and $300 for doctoral students. LU also offers a 15% discount off regular tuition for new online students whose parents have served in the military.

Maryville University

Maryville University offers a military and veteran's service group and support to access military benefits and services. Maryville will automatically send eligible course enrollment information to the VA.

Military students at Maryville can access tuition assistance from the Air and Space Forces, Army, Coast Guard, Navy, Marine Corps, or the Missouri National Guard Education Assistance. 

Undergraduate tuition costs $24,770 per year for full-time students. Online tuition varies by course but starts at $500 per credit.

Park University

Park University can help you earn credit for the experience you've gained through military training. With the Joint Service Transcript or the equivalent, you can earn up to 75 credit hour transfers or fair credit equivalents. You can get a credit evaluation online.

Students can choose from 39 campus locations in 22 states across the U.S., including 31 centers on military installations. Park University offers a discounted tuition rate of $250 per credit for currently serving military students and their dependents. Graduate tuition for dependents is $450 per credit.

PennState World Campus

PennState's World Campus provides a military support team to help you navigate admissions, maximize benefits, and manage the impact of deployment on your education. They offer over 175 programs online to pursue a degree from anywhere in the world.

In addition to GI Bill benefits and military tuition assistance, as a student at PennState World Campus, you may qualify for Penn State's Military Grant-in-Aid. You can earn academic credit for military training and experience. If you need to withdraw to complete military service, you'll get a 100% refund.

Tuition is $360 per credit for students who qualify for Grant-in-Aid.

Purdue University Global-Indianapolis

Purdue University Global-Indianapolis helps veterans and active-duty service members earn credit for military experience. On average, Purdue Global awards military students 45% of the credits needed for a bachelor's degree.

Purdue offers a 55% per credit undergraduate tuition reduction and a 30% graduate tuition reduction for current service members. For veterans, tuition reduction is 38% for undergraduate degrees and 14% for graduate degrees. Online tuition at Purdue Global is $165 per quarter credit hour for military service members.

Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University offers dedicated military support. You can get up to 90 transfer credits for professional military education, on-the-job training, and any prior college credits. Active duty military service members and spouses can get up to 30% off tuition.

SNHU participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program and accepts Tuition Assistance, GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill benefits, and MyCAA scholarships for spouses. Online undergraduate tuition at SNHU costs $320 per credit. Graduate tuition costs $630 per credit.

University of Central Florida

UCF online creates pathways for activity-duty military people, veterans, and their dependents through online degrees. Most online programs are available whether or not you're in the United States.

Tuition for undergraduate students, both in-state and out-of-state, is $110 per credit hour. Graduate tuition is $290 per credit hour.

Additional Resources

Organizations like individual military branches, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Veterans Affairs provide many tools and services to support military students.

The ACE Military Guide assists colleges and universities by awarding credit for students' military training. Service members and veterans use this guide to determine how their training translates to college credit. ACES provides Army service members with free academic training, including a high school completion program, English language instruction, and functional academic skills training. Service members transitioning back to civilian life can use this resource to research career opportunities, industry trends, and the top military-friendly jobs. Service members and veterans can use this resource to research the best online colleges for military members and their families. Downloadable guides explain different benefits and how to access them. This software compiles data on thousands of U.S. colleges and universities. Users can search by institution type and degree level. Service members in all branches can use DANTES to locate approved college programs, receive credit for military training, and find education support programs. The Montgomery GI Bill delivers college funding for active-duty military personnel. Participants must pay $100 per month into the program for at least one year and must have at least two years of active-duty service. The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides financial aid to active-duty service members and veterans with at least 90 days of active service. Degree-seekers with three years of service do not pay tuition or fees at their state's most expensive public college or university. Service members who are eligible for federal tuition assistance can use TA DECIDE to select a college or university. Users can view all approved schools or search by state, degree level, or learning method.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by the VA is available at

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